ELVIS 1950 (1-12) - 1951 (1-12)

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Sometimes Elvis slipped into the ghetto to listen to the black music. In these early Memphis years, Elvis avidly pursued his musical interests, listening and learning all he could. He was already practicing his future hits "I Need You So" and "Hound Dog", and had listened to Franklin McCormick's version of "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" way back in 1953, in a record shop on Beale Street.

He loved the group The Ink Spots, whose songs "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin" were the first he ever recorded. He often hung out in record stores, finding new and old songs alike. Anyone who had a guitar became Elvis' friend.

In addition, Elvis loved gospel music of all kinds, and it was this music which brought him actively into the First Assembly of God church. As a sophomore, he discovered the Odd Fellows Hall at Columbia Mutual Tower, a place where country and gospel performers alike performed. This was the first place he saw Bill Black play. He also met up with Doug Poindexter, whose group The Starlite Wranglers featured Scotty Moore on guitar.

At the Lauderdale Courts, Elvis befriended Evan "Buzzy" Forbess, and soon met Buzzy's friends Paul Dougher, Farley Guy, and Jim Denson. Johnny and Dorsey Burnette lived there, Johnny Black also lived there - his older brother Bill became Elvis' bass player. Elvis and his friends roamed around Memphis, exploring the many sights and sounds. Elvis also held many parties at his Lauderdale apartment, where he often played his guitar and sang (although he was so shy he usually would only do so with the lights out). Elvis often amazed his friends by knowing all the words to every song. Gladys supported Elvis in his musical endeavors. At one point she asked Jim Denson's mother if Jim's older brother, Jesse Lee, known around town for his guitar playing, would give Elvis guitar lessons, which Jesse, somewhat reluctantly, agreed to. Every Saturday and Sunday Elvis showed up for his lessons - often they went down into the basement below the Courts to play, so as not to disturb others.

Fist fights were as common as weather changes, for in the projects it was be macho or not survive. Fights would start suddenly, even among best friends, and many times as soon as they were over, the two antagonists shook hands and were again best friends. There was no room for sissies. People in today's world look down on those living in federal housing projects. They see them as people who will always remain poor. But from this two square block area of Lauderdale Courts, during the time Elvis Presley lived there, more success stories had their beginnings than in probably any other neighborhood in America. Escaping from the Lauderdale Courts, Johnny Avgeris and Stanley Myers became doctors; George Blancett became a judge; Hugh and Paul Hathcock became outstanding educators; Jerry May and Charles and John Bramlett would become star football players in college, with John playing many years in the National Football League; Maury Joe Smith became a Catholic priest; and Gigi Poston became dean of music at Arkansas State University. And then, of course, Elvis Presley became... Elvis! It was here, during these formative, impressionable years that young Elvis Presley attended Humes High School, and one day escaping the project.

His first girlfriend in the Courts was Betty McMahan, whom he is sitting next to in one of the more famous photos of the young King. He often took her to the Suzore. Billie Wardlaw, Betty's friend, became Elvis' girlfriend after Betty started dating someone else. Billie said of Elvis, "Elvis was a great kisser, and since we were always playing spin the bottle in the dark, he didn't let his shyness get in the way''.

Elvis liked being around girls - even though he may not have admitted it, he felt more comfortable around them. And the women liked him, too: he exuded a kind of aching vulnerability which made them want to care for him.

In November, 1950, Elvis was hired as a part-time usher at Loew's Theater. A few months later, in January of 1951, Vernon was laid off from work due to back problems.

Elvis therefore worked 35 hours a week for almost a year, despite school, using his earnings to help his family. He was fired from Loew's after getting in a fight with another boy, but soon started working at the Malco Theater. As a student, Elvis went rather unnoticed his first two years at Humes High. Although he played for his friends in the Courts, Elvis didn't reveal his musical interests to very many people at Humes until eleventh grade, when he once again began toting his guitar to school. Like others, he listened to Dewey Phillips on WHBQ. Elvis also listened to lots of other Memphis stations and was exposed to a large variety of music, everything from the blues to country to gospel to rhythm and blues.

As a sophomore, Elvis joined the ROTC. Although he loved it and especially enjoyed wearing his uniform, he quit after a year due to lack of time. He also liked reading history and literature books, and became a library volunteer worker. Elvis read voraciously. Comic books were among his favorite, because of their images of power and success, and he long admired Captain Marvel. Many people believe the lightning bolt Elvis used as his 1970's trademark came from Marvel's costume. In high school, however, his friends didn't understand his enthusiasm for books, and so he turned to reading in private. Elvis hid his great love for reading for the rest of his life - he often brought trunks of books with him on tour, something which only a few knew about.

In the summer of 1951, the summer before his junior year, Elvis went to work for Precision Tool. He was eventually fired after his employers discovered he was not yet 18. Elvis kept his badge, badge #78, even though he wasn't supposed to: he'd liked the job. As a senior, Elvis started working part-time in September, 1952, for Marl Metal Products, a furniture-assembling plant. He worked from 3:00 to 11:30 p.m. every day, a heavy work load for a high school student.

(Above photo left) Jim Cannon (left), Jean Jennings (middle left), Johnny Black's wife Carolyn (middle right) and Elvis Presley (right) mingle at a party at Cannon's mother's house on Colby Street (Lauderdale Courts), before Jim Cannon left for Korea, August 1952

(Above photo right) Jim Cannon (left) and Johnny Black (right) pick and sing at Cannon's mother's house (Lauderdale Courts) at party for Cannon before he left for Korea. Carolyn Black (right), Vivian Miller (middle), and Joseph Buck Cannon (left) watch and sing along behind them. Johnny, who is left handed, would flip his guitar and play it upside down.

Because his work was causing his grades to slip, Gladys forced Elvis to quit so that he could focus on school. She herself had gone back to work as a nurse's aide in November 1951 at Saint Joseph's Hospital.

One time, after Gladys told Elvis about the rich patients at the hospital, one of whose husband drove a pink Cadillac, he laughingly promised he'd buy her a new pink Caddy when he got rich, a promise he didn't forget.

By eleventh grade, Elvis appeared to have gained some self-confidence. He brought his guitar to school again. He changed his hair, wearing it long and somewhat greasy. He even tried out for football. Some of the boys on the team ganged up on Elvis in the locker room, however, threatening to beat him up if he didn't cut his hair.

The coach eventually kicked him off the team because he refused to do so, although others suggest that at 6 feet and 150 pounds, Elvis was considered too small to play. In addition to his noticeably different hair, Elvis began dressing in a more distinctive manner. Where others wore jeans, Elvis wore dress pants, often in his favorite colors of pink and black. He often wore a black bolero jacket he had bought at Lanksy's clothing store on Beale Street, one of his favorite haunts which featured the latest new hip styles. Elvis seemed determined to be himself, to express his individuality through his wild clothes. Others thought he was a freak, but Elvis was aiming for his own style.

One of the places Elvis and his friends visited was the Blues Shop, or sometimes called Charlie's, a record store. Customers could take a record from the inventory and listen to the music on phonograph players inside the store. It was at 281 North Main Street according to the 1954 Memphis telephone directory, next door to the Suzore #2. It was a favorite hangout for teens who were really into music. Henry's Record Shop was another hangout spot for Elvis, especially since black musicians gathered there as well. From them Elvis acquired immense knowledge of urban Memphis blues. Billy "The Kid" Emerson, Charlie Feathers, Little Junior Parker, and Malcolm Yelvington's Star Rhythm Boys were among the many musicians who influenced young Elvis. He collected as many records as possible, and spent a lot of time watching television. He was always studying the music scene, on whatever medium available. At noon on any given free day, Elvis went down to the WMPS studio for the High Noon Round Up, emceed by disc jockey Bob Neal, his future manager. He became a regular at the All Night Gospel Singings, held in the Ellis Auditorium just up the street. It was here he first saw the Blackwood Brothers perform. Elvis was very drawn to quartet music, an interest reflected years later in his choice of the Jordanaires as his back-up group. He particularly liked the Ink Spots and the Statesmen. Music, more and more, became the focus of his life.

Elvis performed in the December 1952 Humes High Christmas talent show, singing his favorite, "Old Shep". He was the only act awarded an encore. This show increased his popularity at Humes, and in turn Elvis gained more self-confidence. Although Elvis had made some friends at Humes, including George Klein and Red West, many of his best friends in his high school years went to South Side High, including Ronald Smith, Johnny Burnette, Kenneth Herman, and Barbara Hearn, whom Elvis dated for a while. Ron and Elvis got along especially well because they were both very into music.

The Presleys had been notified in November of 1952 by the Memphis Housing Authority their income was high enough (at $4,133 a year) that they no longer qualified for public housing. Vernon received an eviction notice on November 17th, stating they had to be out by February of 1953.

In all the interviews with Humes High, Class of 1953, graduates, one and all pointed to Evan Buzzy Forbess as Elvis Presley's best friend during his years at Humes, and not the other profiteers such as......! In fact, from the tales told by a number of people who knew Elvis in those years, one might term the quartet of Elvis Presley, Buzzy Forbess, Paul Dougher and Farley Guy as ''the rat pack''. They were seemingly inseparable – at times industrious, at times energetic, at times joking, at times fighting and making up, but at all times together.

Like many best friends everywhere, they slowly parted ways after leaving high school as each began the pursuit of his own adulthood, his own career, his own family. And while their paths would cross again from time to time in later years, it just wasn't the same anymore. Evan Buzzy Forbess found work at the Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division and has spent his adult life there. Forbess lives comfortable north Memphis home near Bartlett.

When Farley Guy's father, a railroad man, died in 1949, his mother moved into Lauderdale Courts. That summer, Farley, who had stayed behind to finish his seventh grade school year in Macon, Tennessee, moved in with her. They had a two-bedroom apartment on the second floor at 185 Winchester in the Courts. Below them lived the Presley family; above them, the Doughers. Farley liked that because both families had sons about his age. Even then, living in the city, Farley could not escape the country boy in him. He brought with him his love for the farm, especially horses. It is a love that continues today. Farley, a slow talking, plain talking dude, operated the stables at sprawling Shelby Farms in Memphis.

Paul Dougher, lived on the third floor at Lauderdale with his mother and brother who was a elevator operator. Dougher who now owns a north Memphis liquor store, named by the name of ''Hollywood'' at 1994 Chelsea Avenue in Memphis wrote his book about his youth with Elvis, called ''Elvis: Before He Was King'', a story told to author Gene Myracle.

''Elvis: Before He Was King'' offers a firsthand account of the life of a young Elvis Presley. The book begins in 1949 when the Presley family moved into the Lauderdale Courts, a Memphis Housing Authority complex in Memphis, Tennessee. Elvis was fourteen years old at the time. On his second day in the Courts, Elvis met Paul Dougher who lived in the same building. Paul and Elvis formed an immediate friendship that lasted until Elvis’ death. In the book, Paul shares stories that reveal a unique portrait of Elvis during his teenage years. He includes details of many boyhood experiences that formed the basis of their lifelong friendship. The book also touches on the isolation Elvis felt once he reached a level of success that would be unmatched by any other entertainer. It offers insight into the despair and loneliness surrounding Elvis toward the end of his life. In the final few chapters, Paul offers his personal thoughts on the events and actions that contributed to the untimely death of his friend, a man with one of the greatest voices the world has ever heard.

According to Paul Dougher, ''We stayed close friends, but later on it got to be such a hassle to try to see him, I gave up. Used to, you could just call and get right through. I could almost always get him on the phone or go out to the gate. They would let him know I was there and he'd say "Let him come up". But later, with so many people trying to do that, I guess he wanted more seclusion. When I would call up there, Charlie Hodge would get on the phone, or Joe Esposito. They would say, "He's busy with something''. They probably wouldn't even let him know I was on the phone. I finally gave up and would only see him when he came to see me. He would come by and I would say, "I tried to get hold of you". Just tell them who you are," he'd say. "That doesn't always help'', "I explained''.

Very unfortunate, in a newspaper report in the Commercial Appeal from June 25, 2003, mentioned that, the 67-year old liquor store owner Paul Dougher robbed and wounded on his way to deposit store receipts at a midtown bank may be the latest victim in a string of similar crimes, police said. Paul Samuel Dougher longtime owner of Hollywood liquors, remained in critical condition Tuesday night at the Regional Medical Center at Memphis. He was shot twice during a robbery Monday morning at the National Bank of Commerce at 1985 Union Avenue and has undergone several surgeries. ''We are just praying'', said his wife, Cherri Dougher. ''We just don't know''. Dougher appears to be the first person seriously injured in the series of robberies over the past two months.

Dougher said her husband has been the proprietor of the liquor store for about 30 years and was dropping off receipts from weekend sales. Police said that at about 11:30 a.m., Dougher got out of his Mercury Grand Marguins with a drop bag in his hand, heading toward the bank. He was confronted by a gunman who wrested the bag from his hand. Dougher chased after the suspect and was pistol-whipped and shot twice, police said. Witnesses described a black Nissan Pathfinder that sped south on Barksdale from the bank parking lot.


Elvis Presley began to make new friends at Humes. George Klein, who eventually became the senior class president at L.C. Humes High, befriended Elvis Presley during the ninth grade. Initially, it was not a close relationship. Klein was a slick politician interested in maintaining his popularity. As a result, he was friendly to everyone. Red West and his cousin Sonny West had introduced Elvis Presley to George Klein at Humes High, but Elvis Presley was initially nervous around the overly-aggressive and socially-mobile Klein. Few people remember George Klein as one of Elvis' friends during Elvis Presley's years at Humes High. Kenneth Herman, Eddie Bond, Ronald Smith, and Jim Denson all recalled that Klein was personable and nice to everyone, but that he was simply not one of Elvis' closest High School friends. Klein's lifelong friendship with Elvis Presley did not really begin until 1956. Elvis Presley took a class in music in the eighth grade. Mrs. Elsie Marmann, the school's music teacher, later recalled that Elvis sang in 1953 "Keep Them Cold Icy Fingers Off Of Me" and "Old Shep" for her class. Elvis Presley would later joke about getting an "F" in music class. However, the fact is he received a "C" from Mrs. Marmann.

Evan "Buzzy" Forbess one of Presley's new friends who remembered how nervous Elvis Presley was during the songfest. "He was shy", Forbess remarked, "but we loved to hear him sing". The reason that Mrs. Marmann asked Elvis Presley to sing was because he often carried his guitar to school. Jane Lazenby, a student in the music class, recalled that Elvis Presley often walked through the Humes High School halls, his collar turned up, plunking away at his guitar. After the short singing session, Mrs. Marmann was critical of Elvis' singing. The incident apparently had no effect, as Elvis Presley and his guitar remained inseparable.

"We were in the eighth grade", said George Klein, "and it was coincidental that Elvis and I were thrown into the same class together, and we went all the way through together - same class. I wanted to be a disc jockey, he wanted to be a singer. I remember in the eight grade one year we had a music class, the teacher was Miss Morman, and Elvis brought his guitar to school at Christmas time and she let him get up in front of the class and sing". "I was in a class that didn't know anything about..., I mean we were studying basic stuff, Bach, Beethoven, what sharps and flats were and all that", said George Klein. "But Elvis got up and he stood not behind a podium but behind a table and he sang "Cold, Cold Icy Fingers". I think he might have done "Old Shep", I'm not sure. He got some applause from his classmates. From then on I would see him around school and we would chat and talk. Now, we weren't by any stretch of the imagination what you would call best friends, but we were good friends".

"That was the first time I'd ever heard him sing and I was very impressed. I liked him, but singing wasn't something you did at school at that time, really... Everyone was into sports and that kind of thing. Then we went on, there were other talent shows and then the senior class show which he won. I remember that, I was on the front row that night".

"The way I found out he could play the guitar, I never remember seeing him have it in school", remarked Red West, "but one of the projects we had in wood shop was to bring an article from home that needed to be repaired, and our wood shop instructor, Mr. Widdop, would look at it and evaluate what had to be done, and that would be our project for a six-week time period. Anyway, I brought something from home, and Elvis brought a guitar. And he fooled around with in, sanded it, used some rosin glue and fixed a crack in it, stained it, varnished it, then he took this real fine seel wool to get all the bubbles out of the lacquer and bring it down to a satin finish so it looked really good. Then he put the strings back on it and was tuning it just before the period ended. So, naturally, somebody came up and said, 'Hey, man, can you play that thing? And he said, 'No, not really. I just know a few chords. My uncle's taught me a few chords'. So they said, 'Why don't you play something for us'. He said, 'Naw, I can't do that', and he kept tuning it. Well, somebody grabbed him from behind and locked his arms behind him, and another guy got his car keys out of his pocket, and they said,'If you play something, you'll get your car keys back'. He said, "well, okay, I'll try, but I really don't know that much". And he started picking out the melody to a song that most people today probably wouldn't even know called "Under The Double Eagle", and he did it very expertly. And it just blew me away. I didn't even know he could play that guitar - I just thought he was fixing it for somebody else".


MARKET MALL / LAUDERDALE COURTS - Lauderdale Courts covered such a large expanse that it was much like a small community, complete with its own facilities, parks, and recreation areas. In 1949 the twenty-six-acre project included sixty-six three- and two-story apartment buildings, with 449 apartments in all. The complex included a steam power plant at 243 Winchester Avenue and the headquarters of the Memphis Housing Authority at 264 North Lauderdale Street. Not surprisingly, the Courts' residents adopted their own areas to socialize.

Market Mall was one such place. Before the construction of Lauderdale Courts, this was actually part of Market Street. Renamed Market Mall when the street was blocked off, it is the east-to-west pedestrian walkway that begins at Third Avenue and ends at Lauderdale Street. On either side of Market Mall, apartments were built, with entrance doors facing the mall and a row of steps leading on to each door. The Market Mall and the doorsteps became informal gathering places for the young Lauderdale Courts residents. Many of these residents remember Elvis Presley entertaining on Market Mall. Johnny Black, brother of Bill Black said, "It was just whoever would come, whoever showed up. We'd have a mandolin maybe, three or four guitars, and the people would gather. We weren't trying to impress the world, we were just playing to have a good time".


RECREATION HALL (TEEN CANTEEN) LAUDERDALE COURTS - Located at 243 Winchester Avenue, near the boiler house, was the maintenance building of the Courts. This is the former recreation hall for the Lauderdale Courts housing project. Elvis Presley attended teen dances here, and sometimes performed. Paul Burlison used to say that he, and his friends Johnny and Dorsey Burnette played the same dances here. They would not let Elvis perform with them. They were older and among the toughest kids in the city.

The Burnette brothers and Paul Burlison became the Rock And Roll Trio. The Burnette brothers were Golden Glove boxers with a combative disposition to match. The Rock And Roll Trio would later record some of the most distinctive rockabilly of the era. Johnny and Dorsey both wrote songs and recorded as solo acts before their untimely deaths. Paul Burlison chose to give up life on the road and raise his family.

Buzzy Forbess, a friend of Elvis, remembers being teased by Elvis at one of these dances. Elvis asked the crowd to be quiet so that he could make an announcement. When he had everyone's attention, he declared that everyone except Buzzy had paid a quarter for admission. What Elvis neglected to say was that that afternoon, while horsing around, Elvis had talked Buzzy out of his quarter (his last quarter that he was saving for the dance) and lost it in a pinball machine. Of course, Buzzy was embarrassed.

When Elvis's friends organized these events, Elvis would often sing. However, other residents of the Courts also held parties in the hall, and Elvis wasn't always allowed to perform. An older, thougher group of aspiring musicians performed at many of these gatherings.

Today this building is a health club for the Uptown Square residents.


The Weaver's version of Leadbelly's "Goodnight, Irene" sells over 2 million copies. Across the river in West Memphis, Arkansas, radio station KWEM was developing a reputation for country music. In the 1950s, their top disc jockey’s were Bill Strength and Dick Stuart, supported by live acts including Clyde Leopard's band, Charlie Feathers and Jack Earls.

The competition for Bob Neal in the country disc jockey stakes came from Dick Stuart on KWEM and Sleepy Eyed John Lepley on WHHM. Other forms of specialised music programming included some blues and gospel on most stations, particularly KWEM and, of course, the black radio station WDIA in Memphis. As to recording actually made in Memphis in the immediate post-War years, very little activity has been uncovered before the establishment of Sun, Duke and Meteor in 1952 and Starmaker in 1953. Ike Turner recorded some blues in makeshift studios for Modern Records of Hollywood in 1951 and 1952, and Rufus Thomas and others recorded for Star Talent at Johnny Curry's Club in Memphis. There were some very short-lived labels operating in 1953, including one-issue blues labels like Wasco (Professor Longhair) and Back Alley (Tippo Lit). The only vaguely substantial recording enterprise to predate Sun appears to have been the Buster label formed in the late 1940s by Buster Williams started in 1949. However, the evidence suggest that the Buster releases were in fact reissues of material from west coast record labels and that Buster was primarily a manufacturing and sales exercise rather than a recording enterprise related to local musicians.

In Tupelo, at the North Mississippi Community Hospital, a three-story wing that increases the bed capacity to 95 is constructed and joined to the south side of the original building.


Further research may reveal other Memphis recordings and labels. There are still some puzzles to be solved. Someone called Dreamy Joe recorded "Hardin's Bread Boogie" on a promotional 78rpm for Action Promotions. There will have been other promotional discs made, and possibly some of these saw limited commercial releases.


Sam Phillips organises a deal with Bill McCall of 4-Star and Gilt-Edge Records in California, whereby Sam Phillips will record country and blues musicians from the Memphis area and sell the recordings to McCall for commercial release. Phillips records blues musicians Lost John Hunter (for release on 4-Star) and Charlie Burse (unissued). He also records gospel music with the Gospel Travellers, whose songs he pitches to Modern Records in Hollywood.


The first time Ronald Smith met Elvis Presley, he attended on a birthday party for Patti Philpot in the Cummings area of South Memphis. It was Patti Philpot who introduced Ron to Elvis and they quickly became close friends. Jesse Lee Denson from Lauderdale Courts was at the party, and they all played together and sang into the night.

"I first met Elvis Presley in 1950 at a birthday party", Ronald Smith remarked. "He was singing an Eddy Arnold song, "Please Mommy Please Stay Home With Me". Elvis Presley sang some Hank Snow songs, and he really liked Lefty Frizzell's music. I was impressed", Smith remarked. "I had never seen a guy with
that much knowledge".

"I had gone there with Jimmy Wright and we had brought our guitars along to the party", said Smith, who was attending nearby South Side High School at the time. "Elvis walked in the door and I mean, hey, this guy was too cool. We didn't know how to treat him until he picked up Jimmy's guitar and got to singing. Man, I was sitting there thinking he was as good as Marty Robbins!".

"Elvis was seeing Patti at the time", said Ronald Smith. "He was also seeing Dixie Locke. Sometimes he would go see Dixie first, then he would drop by and see Patti. And sometimes, when he didn't have enough time to see Patti, he would ask me how she was doing and I would tell him, 'Man, you're causing Patti to put on a lot of lipstick".

"Patti's mom was always having to go out there and chase Elvis off the porch. Patti wasn't but fourteen at that birthday party, but she was mature, like Barbara Pittman was when I first started dropping by Hurt Village and picking her up so we could go play at the Eagle's Nest. When I learned Barbara was only twelve, I almost fainted".

Following their initial meeting, Ronald Smith began calling Elvis Presley whenever someone was looking for a band to play here and there - little gigs where they might each take home a buck or two after playing all night.


One of Elvis' favourite songs was Ivory Joe Hunter's "I Need You So". In April 1950 Hunter's tune was played on Southern rhythm and blues radio stations, and Elvis Presley identified with the slow, soulful direction in Hunter's music. Another 1950 song that influenced Elvis Presley was Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys' "Faded Love". The close friendship that Elvis Presley had with Ronald Smith and Johnny Burnette further helped to develop Presley's music. Lonzo Green, another Memphis musician, remembers an attentive Elvis Presley following his chord progression on guitar. Green says that he sat with Elvis, tuned his guitar, and then sang several songs and taught him several chords. Black musicians in Memphis remained a strong influence upon Presley. He prided himself as a person who could search out new songs. "Elvis loved the record stores", Ronald Smith remembered. "He loved to find obscure tunes. We were all searching for a sound", Smith remarked. "No one knew what type of sound, so we looked for new records. When we went to Ruben Cherry's store, he was nervous about us, a younger guy let us listen to records", Smith maintained.

Many of the songs that Elvis Presley listened to were discovered at Ruben Cherry's Record Store, named "The Home Of The Blues" on Beale Street across from Main Street. Cherry's store was a second home to Elvis Presley, who frequently wandered down to listen to the new records. A slight, kind man, Cherry Ruby often reminded Elvis Presley that a purchase was required, and this prompted Elvis Presley to begin collecting rhythm and blues records.

HOME OF THE BLUES RECORD COMPANY AND AFFILIATED PUBLISHING COMPANIES - Originally founded in 1960 by Ruben Cherry owner/operator of the Home Of The Blues Record Shop at 105-107 Beale Street (billed as ''The South's Largest Record Store'') in Memphis (occupied by the Elvis Presley statue), the small regional label (and its affiliated publishing companies) were only active for a few years, but recorded many wonderful examples of post-Sun blues and rockabilly and pre-Stax and Hi soul.

With the financial backing of Cherry's aunt, Mrs. Celia G. Camp, who derived her wealth from the oil business, the companies began as an outgrowth of the Home of the Blues record shop at 107 Beale Street.

Later, the record store moved around the corner to Main Street and continues to thrive. However, despite the continuing success of the store and the engagement of another Camp nephew Wolf Lebovitz, who diversified the label with affiliates such as 1st, Zab, Rufus and Six-O-Six Records, the label ceased operations by the end of 1962.

Nevertheless, for a short time both before and after that, it did lease existing, as well as new productions to other labels. Following Cherry's death and prior to her own, Mrs. Camp left the assets of the label to Lebovitz.

When the Rock And Roll Trio, made up of Johnny and Dorsey Burnette and Paul Burlison, stopped in Memphis before a Nashville recording session, the newspaper reported that they were going to the Home Of The Blues Record Shop to pick out songs to record. "If you liked it you could always change it into rockabilly if it just had good words and a melody", Paul Burlison said. "You could always put a beat to it if you wanted to. You could take an old country song and put a beat to it like Elvis did with "Blue Moon Of Kentucky". Johnny Burnette once told an interviewer that after school he used to hang out in the Home Of The Blues. He used to run into Elvis quite frequently there, he said. When "That's All Right" was released, Ruben Cherry was the first to stock it. In fact, many Memphians remember buying their first Elvis Presley records at Home Of The Blues. Ruben was such a strong supporter of Elvis Presley that he even loaned Elvis money to get to his early concerts.

The name of the store may have inspired Johnny Cash, Lily McAlpin, and Glan Douglas to compose the 1957 Johnny Cash recording of "Home Of The Blues" (SUN 279). In 1976, upon learning that his old friend was ill, Elvis Presley wrote a letter to Ruben thanking him for his early support. The letter was read at Ruben's burial service.

HOTB's early roster contained fine period original recordings by rhythm and blues vocal stylists Roy Brown, The 5 Royales., Larry Birdsong, Dave Dixon and Jimmy Dotson, in audition to a hit by Willie Cobb that it leased from a local rival. In addition, HOTB recorded a good deal of instrumental music by the likes of trumpeter Bowlegs Gabe. Topping the list of instrumentalists, however, are the initial recordings and productions by a future star of 1970s soul music, Willie Mitchell. It was while at HOTB that the trumpeter honed his skills to become the great band-leader and record producer of so many fine recordings to come from the Hi label, especially those by the now-notorious Reverend, Al Green. Talent of varying stripes found its way to the HOTB label, where the down-home blues man Woodrow Adams also found release, but highly-revered Chicago guitarist Sammy Lawhorn did not. HOTB gave a chance to numerous local unknown and amateur vocalists (soloists and groups, both black and white), but, with the exception of James Austin (aka Charles James), none created much of a stir and many remained unreleased.

One fine white vocalist who did see release on the label was rockabilly star Billy Riley, but rockabilly legend, Harmonica Frank Floyd, was only among the possibilities for release when the label folded. (Frank's recordings may yet see the light of day, as the original session tapes were found intact when the label and its publishing affiliates were acquired by Delta Haze Corporation some years back). Another couple of white artists, both vocalists/instrumentalists, were recorded at the end of HOTB's lifetime and did see release – one on Home of the Blues and the other on subsidiary 1st Records. They are Billy Adams and Bill Yates. Both are examples of the influence that black music had on young white singers and musicians in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

All told, the Home of the Blues label temporarily filled the void in the recording of Memphis blues, rhythm and blues and soul music until Stax and then Hi Records would come along and do it up brown...

RUBEN CHERRY - Owner of Ruben Cherry and his Home Of The Blues record shop at 105-107 Beale Street, billed as ''The South's Largest Record Store''. Cherry had bought the premises in the late 1940s after he came out of wartime military service. He had been born in Memphis on January 30, 1922 and his parents, Harry Cherry, a naturalized Russian, and Ida Goldstein, ran a grocery business, Rosen's Delicatessen at 606 South Lauderdale just south of Beale Street. In the family tradition, Ruben Cherry was a good but cautious businessman. He advertised his store as being '' on the street where the blues was born'' but he stocked the full range of music - pop, jazz, and country as well as blues - and he prided himself that he kept in stock one copy of every disc in print at any time.

His shop was frequented by black and white customers including disc jockey Dewey Phillips, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash. Cash recorded a song confirming ''you'll find me at the home of the blues'', and Cherry stood behind his old wooden counter with photographs of himself – as president of the local Variety Club - with Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Wilson and other entertainers. Not that Cherry was universally liked. Some described him as ''peculiar'' and writer Robert Gordon quotes Milton Pond from a rival record dealership, Poplar Tunes, saying: ''Lots of people didn't like Ruben. They thought he was pushy and too obnoxious. The main thing I remember about him, up by the cash register he had a nickel glued on the glass counter. He'd wait for somebody to try to pick it up, and when it wouldn't move he'd get the biggest kick out of that''. According to musician Jim Dickinson, ''Ruben kept this rubber rattlesnake behind the counter which he used to scare off would-be stickup men. When he held it, it really liked real. When it was not there one day, Cherry said ''that goddamn Elvis Presley, he came in here and stole my rubber snake and ran down Beale Street shaking it''. Guitarist Ronald Smith remembers, ''Ruben Cherry used to sell me records back when I was a kid, 1949 or so. He'd special order in guitar records for me by Chet Atkins. Ruben was kinda eccentric, a bit unusual. He'd chase people out of the shop, us kids. He jumped all over me one day for no reasons and I figured he'd confused me with Reggie Young who'd ordered a disc and not collected it''.

Ruben Cherry apparently had a deep interest in black music and many connections in Memphis and nationally. Eventually he decided to channel this interest into his own label, which was bankrolled by his mother's sister, Cella Goldstein, who had also started out in the delicatessen business before marrying Clarence Camp, owner of Southern Amusements a 628 Madison Avenue in Memphis. The path from jukebox and record dealing into label ownership was a familiar one in most US cities. In their edition of August 13, 1960 the Cash Box ran a story below a photograph of Cherry with rhythm and blues star Roy Brown: ''Memphis, Ten – Newly formed label, Home Of The Blues Co. has signed two artists to wax exclusively for it. HOTB execs Ruben Cherry, president, and Mrs. C.A. Camp, sec-treasurer, are shown inking the contract with Roy Brown''. Brown opened the label with release number 107, after the address of Cherry's store, Cherry and Camp recorded a mix of established black performers, such as Brown and the Five Royales, and local singers associated with the Memphis club scene, like Willie Mitchell and Bowlegs Miller. The latter was a regular at the Flamingo Room, a club upstairs above Cherry's store. Willie Mitchell provided the studio band and from accounts by Mitchell and Jim Dickinson (who recorded there as Little Muddy) it seems that most of the earliest HOTB sessions were made at the Fernwood Records studio at 415 North Main Street. Roy Brown told John Broven: ''I did a few things for Home Of The Blues in Memphis in 1960. It was Willie Mitchell's band, he was quite a guy. It was just a small studio... near to radio WDIA... but the guy we had on my session was Scotty Moore who handled the session. And I had two things that went well, as a matter of fact we sold forty four thousand copies of ''Oh So Wonderful'' in Memphis alone, but the company didn't have (good) distribution outside of Memphis''.

Ruben Cherry and Celia Camp diversified in mid 1961 by setting up subsidiary labels to issue music produced and bankrolled by independent producers. The Zab, Rufus, Six-O-Six (named after the store address where Cherry lived as a child), and 1st Records labels were an effort to ring the changes. Mrs. Cam was wheeling and dealing in more than records: Billboard reported on May 22, 1961: ''Memphis: Mrs. Celia G. Camp has purchased the majority of the stock in Southern Amusement Company from her ex-husband... the largest phonograph and game operation in the mid-South... Camp began his coin machine empire in 1938, with Mrs. Camp's help. They founded Southern Distributing Company with Kenneth Wilson. Wilson has long since left the field and is now a multi-millionaire builder and president of Holiday Inns Inc... Mrs. Camp owns Music Systems Inc, 407 Madison Avenue, where her office is, a background music operation. Mrs. Camp also owns oil wells in Kentucky, Illinois, and Arkansas. A year ago she helped found HOTB record company and is secretary-treasurer of it. She has put up the money for its operation. They are hoping to become a hit-producing record company, have great hopes for the Five Royales they are recording''. These hopes soon met the reality of average sales figures, and Camp brought in her nephew, Wolf Lebowitz, a Memphis-born journalist and photographer, who hawked the label around the northern record business. By November 1961 Billboard was reporting: ''Chicago – Vee Jay president Ewart Abner has worked out an agreement with Ruben Cherry's label HOTB to distribute the latter's records. Future HOTB releases will be issued on Vee Jay with an additional emblem of HOTB''. Soon, the label would transfer this arrangement to ABC-Paramount Records and their Apt subsidiary.

Ruben Cherry's dream of a successful rhythm and blues label had collapsed through weight of competition from Hi, Stax and others, and his Home Of The Blues label closed. The record store continued to trade through the 1960s but Cherry died in January 1976, aged just 53, after 27 years in the record business.

MAY 1950

Elvis Presley visited and saw, the famous stripper, Gypsie Rose Lee at the Cotton Carnival down by the Mississippi River and rode the rides on the Cotton Carnival midway, and went to the street dances in Court Square. "That was a good place to be, one of our favorite places during Carnival", recalled Buzzy Forbess, "we would watch people drink and dance.

Once, during carnival, they had a woman playing piano and she asked Elvis, 'What's your name?', and Elvis said, 'Charlie'. So she started singing a funny song about a guy named Charlie. Don't ask me why Elvis said his name was Charlie. That was just Elvis. That was the way he was, even then".


Elvis Presley bought his hair oil "Triple Active Success Hair Oil" at A. Schwab's Dry Goods store, located at 163 Beale Street.

ABRAHAM > SCHWAB < DRY GOOD STORE - Ca. 1865 was built. Located at 163-165 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, tel, 901/523-9782, between Second and Third Street, their long-time motto "If you can't find it at A. Schwab's, you are better off without it!". Those doors first opened in 1876 and have remained open throughout urban renewal efforts, making Abraham Schwab the oldest continuous business on Beale Street.

Abraham Schwab sells jars of "Money Drawing Oil", bottles of "Most Powerful Helping Hand Bath And Floor Wash", tins of "Come To Me Love Drawing Incense", or a jar, bottle or tin of something made to satisfy whatever you need or desire can be purchased here.

Elvis Presley purchased "Triple Active Success Hair Oil" at Abraham Schwab in the early 1950s. Take a look at some John The Conqueror root - a mandrake named for the mythical figure who tore off the Devil's arm and whipped his butt with it. Virtually unchanged in appearance since the opening, the oldest store on Beale claims "If you can't find it at Schwab's, you're better off without it", but that assumes you do feel a need for 99 cent Mississippi Slim Jim ties, grossly oversize clothes, and a specialty line of voodoo powders.

In 1912 Abraham Schwab moved his dry good business from 149 into larger quarters at 163 Beale Street. The family business had been on Beale Street since 1876, first as grocers then as dry goods merchants. L. Bauer and Sons (dry goods) and then a Piggly Wiggly grocery store occupied 164 Beale Street until Schwab took over the building in 1924.

Schwab's is the only original business still in operation on the street. Inside and out, it is a remarkable holdover from old Beale Street. The iron attic vents and architectural design is brought out by the deep rich colour of the red brick. The interior has high ceilings, wooden floors, old style display bins, and a variety of merchandise which suggests the old-time dry goods store. The original building shows the store front with an overhang that extended to the curb to protect customers from bad weather, a common feature during this period.


WHBQ radio program director, Gordon Lawhead, began a fifteen-minute segment that he called Red Hot & Blue, taken the name from a patriotic musical film of that year starring Victor Mature, not exactly a king of the blues himself, and twenty-four-year-old Dewey Phillips starts this WHBQ broadcasting from the Gayoso Hotel, located at Gayoso Street. He is on air from 10:00 p.m. to midnight every weekday, and until 1:00 a.m., on Saturday nights, while keeping his job in the record department at W.T. Grant's on South Main Street. The music that he plays is some of the finest American vernacular music ever recorded: in the course of one fifteen-minute segment, you might hear Muddy Waters' latest hit, a gospel number by the Soul Stirrers, with the great singer, R.H. Harris, Larry Darnell's "For You, My Love", and Wynomie Harris' "Good Rockin' Tonight" - "boogies, blues, and spirituals".

"Dewey was hawking records at Grant's just like those guys down on Beale Street were hawking people to come into the pawnshops", recalls veteran disc jockey George Klein. Gordon Lawhead did give Phillips a few pointers, showing him how to run the radio control board, a skill Lawhead says Dewey never quite mastered. Phillips was later given his own studio so that on occasions when he broke the equipment the station wouldn't be totally incapacitated. Lawhead also gave Phillips some tips in reading advertising copy, and claims to have given him what would later become his catch phrase. "I suggested that when he was reading a spot, to say, 'Co in and buy this and tell 'em Phillips sent you".

To Lawhead's amazement, the response was immediate and overwhelming. "The day after, we got seven postcards asking for specific rhythm and blues music. And the next day we got seventy; and the next day we got seven hundred. It was a monsoon of mail".

Dewey Phillips' Red Hot & Blue show, was soon expanded to three hours, from nine to midnight, and Phillips also began an afternoon show at 2 p.m. that mixed country records in with the rockabilly and rhythm and blues. Dewey's salary rose from nothing to $125 and than to $250, a sizable sum in fifties radio. And of course those were the glory days of payola, a time when independent labels owners like Syd Nathan of King Records paid so much money to disc jockeys to guarantee that his records got played that he actually listed the bribes on King's ledger books as business expenses. Some Memphis music insiders estimate Dewey Phillips pulled in as much as $100,000 annually from record companies.

JUNE 1950

Sam Phillips meets with disc jockey Dewey Phillips, whose Red, Hot, and Blue, a melange of "boogies, blues, and spirituals", is the hottest thing on Memphis radio, attracting a huge black and white audience with its idiosyncratic style. Sam Phillips recognizes a kindred spirit in Dewey, and while the partnership that they form later this summer, known as "The Phillips" label, doesn't last more than a month or two, they remain the closest of ideological allies.

JUNE 1950

Elvis Presley finished the ninth grade. One of Humes High School's teachers, Susan Johnson, remarked, "When one of our boys or girls does something special, like Elvis Presley, they should put an extra gold star after his name, because our children have farther to go than most. Elvis Presley liked to sing songs to a few friends during lunch or at a school assembly at Overton Park".

Among those who became caught up in the different sound was a thirteen year old living in a public housing development in Memphis. Elvis Presley began collecting the records of such bluesmen as Arthur Crudup and Big Bill Broonzy. Later, still in Humes High School, he started going down on Beale Street and emulating its musicians, not only in what they sang but in the way they sang it (and also in what they wore). He became acquainted not only with Nathaniel Dowd Williams, but with Robert Henry, who introduced him to many of Beale Street's entertainers. "I taken him to the Hotel Improvement Club with me, and he would watch the coloured singers, understand me, and then he got to doing it the same way as them", Henry said. "He got that shaking, that wiggle, from Charlie Burse, Ukulele Ike we called him, right there at the Gray Mule on Beale, Elvis, he wasn't doing nothing but what the coloured people had been doing for the last hundred years. But people... people went wild over him".

Interview with Robert Henry, October 19, 1973 by Margaret McKee.

JUNE 1950

Sam Phillips starts The Phillips label with disc jockey Dewey Phillips. There is one release by bluesman Joe Hill Louis "Gotta Let You Go"/"Boogie In The Park" (The Phillips 9001/2).


At the works in the auto plants in Pontiac, Michigan, Johnny Cash returned home, although he made his return somewhat sooner than most - after three weeks. Still determined to get out of Dyess, Johnny Cash joined the Air Force on July 7, 1950. By his own account, Cash's 'four long, miserable years' in the Air Force were relieved only by playing music with fellow southerners.


In June 1950 Sam Phillips made his first tentative venture into the record business with WHBQ radio disc jockey Dewey Phillips. Here, Sam is trying to pitch the record to his cousin, Jim Conolly, at WJLD. Note the emphasis that he is placing on quality. The Phillips label didn't last out the year, though.


Mr. James Edward Connolly August 21, 1950
Station WJLD
Bessemer, Alabama

Dear Madam,

Under separate cover - a couple of quilts and four blankets - I am sending you the hottest thing in country - the first official release of the newly organised PHILLIPS label.

I have written Bob, telling him of our artist, and I thought you might like to know of the deal, too. Dewey Phillips and I are partners 50-50 on our new label, and we're going to do our best to make it roll in the South.

Our first releases is by an ex Columbia recording artist, Joe Hill Louis, and the "Gotta Let You Go" side is already getting hot here. I know umbach can put it over down there, too.

We're going to put nothing but the best race and spiritual artists obtainable on our label, and though we may not have the number of artists that other companies have, we're going to do our durndest to have the best. I'd appreciate your singing on the station and signing it off with our records from time to
time. In fact, I think it would make a good substitute for the Star Spangled Banner.

All kidding aside, do what you can to help us, and I might even buy you a couple of extra fish hooks. If our records happen to get hot down there before we get a distributor and a retail outlet in Birmingham, let me know, and we'll try to rush up the thing some. But its keeping me going night and day getting this thing set up. Therefore, if you receive any inquiries about obtaining any of our records there, please contact me, telephone collect.

Hope to get down to see y'll before too long, and give you the story on the deal. In the meantime, if you an round up the hard and pick up ol' Dobbin and head NW we'd love seeing you, Thanks, Jimbo Best wishes, I am

Yours sincerely


Buster Williams' Plastic Products pressed three hundred copies, and first released "Gotta Let You Go"/"Boogie In The Park", recorded by Joe Hill Louis, on the Phillips label (The Phillips 9001/9002), shipped them to Music Sales for distribution in Memphis, and billed Phillips fifty-one dollars. It turned out to be the label's only release. The extreme scarcity of the record today suggests that there never wasanother pressing, and, as far as anyone, the label was DOA by September.


Elvis Presley enters his tenth-grade year at Humes High School, enrolling in ROTC, in which he receives a grade of C for the first term and B for the second. Except for an A in English and an F in typing, his grades are C's and B's. Elvis Aron Presley is issued a Social Security card, number 409-52-2002.


Gene Autry send Colonel Tom Parker an letter to thanking him for sending pictures taken at the Knickerbocker Hotel. Autry also thanked the Colonel for suggestions he made about the Checkerboard Jamboree. Autry sent his regards to "the gang". Autry explained in a handwritten note in blue ink at the bottom of the page that the letter had been misdirected when it was sent to him to be signed. He redated the letter November 1, 1950. Gene Autry, well-known country singer, knew Colonel Tom Parker from his Nashville connections. The Colonel represented Eddy Arnold, and Autry often toured with Arnold for various shows.


The first time Elvis Presley's voice was ever recorded was on September 24, 1950 at a birthday party. "Everyone says that the first recording Elvis did was when he went down to Sun Records, but that isn't true", says Doris Guy Wallace, three years younger than Elvis Presley while living in Lauderdale Courts, Doris Guy was, nonetheless, right in there when all the boys in the Courts started doing things physical. "I was a little thing, right at five feet tall all my life", she says. "Fact is, I didn't ever reach a hundred pounds until I was pregnant the first time". Calling herself a tomboy during those years, she wasn't happy unless she was mixing and mingling in sports with her brother, Farley Guy, and his three best friends, Buzzy Forbess, Paul Dougher and the boy who lived below them in the Courts, Elvis Presley. "The first time Elvis' voice was ever recorded was on my fourteenth birthday (September 24, 1950). My older sister operated a cafeteria over on North Second and that night we had a birthday party there. For my birthday, Elvis Presley made up a song and that night he sang it. They had a tape recorder there and recorded the song. I really liked that song, not just because it was my birthday, but because it was a good song", said Doris Guy Wallace. Mysteriously, she said, the tape recorded song, which today would surely be worth a million dollars to any serious Elvis collector has disappeared. Today the mother of three and the grandmother of seven, Doris Guy Wallace lives in central Arkansas.


The Gilt-Edge label is re-launched with a different distribution set-up from 4-Star. Slim Rhodes is among the first releases.

Influential Memphis disc jockey and singer/musician, Eddie Hill, leaves WMPS and crosses town to WMC radio. His "High Noon Roundup" show influences many young country artists, including Johnny Cash, and includes Harmonica Frank in the regular cast.


Arthur Groom, the Loew's Theater manager located at 152 South Main Street, hired Elvis Presley to work as a part-time usher. The $12.75 that Elvis Presley made each week further supplemented the family income. For almost a year, Elvis Presley worked five hours a night, seven days a week at Loew's Theater. After work, he would walk down to the Grit-Iron Cafe to meet Ronald Smith and Curtis LeeAlderson. The restaurant, located across the street from the Peabody Hotel, on Union Avenue, was an allnight hangout. His job at Loew's Theater ended when a concession candy-counter girl named Sue, not only flirted openly with Elvis Presley but let him eat all the candy he wanted. Another usher told the boss that Elvis Presley was eating free candy, a fight broke out, and Elvis Presley punched the boy in the nose. Arthur Groom fired both boys, but Elvis Presley soon became an usher at the Malco Theater on South Main Street.

There had been crushes before, but they'd been confined to stolen glances and wishful thinking. Sue's blonde hair and sparkling green eyes consumed Elvis' thoughts and ignited his fantasies - not to mention paralyzed him with fear. Most of them are shy and awkward at that age, but Elvis took it to new heights. He was poor, living in the projects, and embarrassed about it. Plus, he considered his awkward body and face ugly and assumed any girl thought him homely. But Sue stirred his dormant sexuality to such a degree that he went out of his way to introduce himself and talk to her. Unfortunately, their potential romance met an untimely demise after Elvis was fired for the fighting Elvis said to Earl Greenwood: "I heard 'em tellin' Sue that nobody liked me 'cause I was weird and lived with coloreds. He only said that 'cause he wanted to take her out and was jealous 'cause she was talkin' to me so much. I didn't mean to hit 'em, but he made me mad. I did it 'fore I knew what I was doin". "What about Sue", asked Earl Greenwood. "Aw, I'll never see her 'gain".

"We worked as ushers together at the Loew's State theater down of South Main", recalled Luther Nall. "We double dated a lot. I was never a member of Elvis' "band", but we played together a lot in the neighborhood at night. Many times we had what we called a "hootennanny", where everyone would join in the music. He sang in some of the variety shows at school".

Elvis liked the money from Loew's, but the hours were taking their toll. His grades began falling, and his teachers complained that he was sleeping through class, so he reluctantly quit. While working at Loew's Theater, Elvis Presley dated Betty McMahan. She lived in a third-floor apartment at the Lauderdale Courts, and they frequently went to the Suzore II Theater, a second-run house, on 279 North Main. She continually pressured Elvis Presley to take her to the St. Mary's Dances. Consequently, they spent many afternoons at the bargain matinees in the Suzore II. Elvis Presley liked to strum his guitar at home and play it at parties. His second girlfriend, Billie Wardlow, remembers that Elvis Presley loved to sing Eddy Arnold's "Won't You Tell Me Molly Darling". Betty McMahan died in 1986.

LOEW'S STATE THEATER - Memphis movie theater located at 152 South Main Street, where, in 1950, Elvis Presley worked as an usher at $12.75 a week, at the theater on two separate occasions, beginning in November 1950. A sophomore in high school at the time, Elvis would arrive home after 5:00 to 10:00 on school nights. After a few months, his mother asked him to quit because his grades were slipping. When school let out the following summer, Elvis was hired again.

On December 4, 1956, on the day of the Million Dollar Quartet at Sun Records, the movie "Love Me Tender" was being shown at Loew's State Theater.

On October 17, 1957 Elvis Presley allowed his third MGM movie, "Jailhouse Rock", to premiere in that same theater. Arthur Groom, still the manager, had a good sense of humour about this incredible change of fortune.

Three weeks before the premier, Arthur posed with Elvis and an usher's uniform - presumably the same uniform that Elvis Presley had worn - and told his story for the newspapers. Elvis was welcome to return to his job anytime, Groom said. With a grin Elvis replied, "Sir, I don't believe I'm ready to go back to my old job yet". Even Mrs. Groom could not resist teasing her husband. "Well, all I can say, Arthur Groom, is that you'll work a long while before we own a car as tremendous as that one Elvis has out there", she chided.

Built in 1920 for founder and manager Arthur Groom, no expense was spared in its construction, and it was designed as an opulent retreat from everyday life. One could enter the ornate lobby - decorated with grand columns, gold plating, and chandeliers - and experience a grandeur normally reserved for the upper class. In the 1930s, the theater became one of the first air-conditioned buildings in Memphis.

The late comedian Freddie Prize was himself an usher at New York City's Loew's State Theater (it no longer exists). Other celebrities who have been employed as ushers: Frances Farmer, Carol Burnett (who was fired), Sylvester Stallone (who was fired), Linda Evans, and Johnny Carson. The theater was demolished some years ago. This neglected part of downtown is now being transformed into the Peabody Place office and shopping development. Downtown Memphis. From Union Avenue, turn south on the South Main Street Pedestrian Mall. The Loew's State Theater was located between Gayoso Avenue and Peabody Place.

"Elvis allowed his third movie, Jailhouse Rock, to premiere in that same theatre. Arthur Groom, still the manager, had a good sense of humor about this incredible change of fortune. Three weeks before the premiere, he posed with Elvis and an usher's uniform-presumably the same uniform that Elvis had worn and told his story for the newspapers. Elvis was welcome to return to his job anytime, Groom said. In fact, he joked that he would especially like for Elvis to usher at the premiere. With a grin Elvis replied,"Sir, I don't believe I'm ready to go back to my old job yet." Even Mrs. Groom could not resist teasing her husband. "Well, all I can say, Arthur Groom, is that you'll work a long while before we own a car as tremendous as that one Elvis has out there," she chided.

Micki Groom Creamer said, ''My Dad was the manager of the Loew's State from 1949 till the mid 1960s, not too sure. As many may know, my Dad did fire Elvis Presley when he was an usher scuffling with another usher in the early 1950s, but eventually hired him back. Truly amazing... a kid is an usher and about 5 years later, he is coming back to see himself up on the screen. That was quite a night. My Dad held a private screening for Elvis, his parents, and friends visiting from Hollywood, Nick Adams, and of course the Groom family was there in full force! I was a candy girl at the Loew's State during my high school years and met my future husband who was an usher at Loew's Palace''.


In the Lauderdale Courts, Elvis Presley with Evan "Buzzy" Forbess and Buzzy remembers that Elvis Presley, persuaded to sing for his tenth-grade class Christmas party, purposely forgot his guitar. During his sophomore year at Humes High, Elvis Presley discovered the Odd Fellows Hall.

An assortment of country and gospel artists performed there, and Elvis Presley learned a great deal about their music. He was initially hired to clear tables at the hall, but always managed to stay for the first musical set. It was at the Odd Fellows Hall that Elvis Presley first saw his future bass player Bill Black, perform.

"Many times we would invite Elvis and some of our other friends to go up there and shoot pool with us. We spent a lot of time there, also, planning entertainment and dances for young people.

The Rainbow Girls also had their meetings there and we did a lot of things together, the Odd Fellows and the Rainbow Girls. We never needed any money for entertainment there", recall Buzzy Forbess.

ODD FELLOWS HALL - Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a society, founded in 1859, with lodges throughout the world. The Memphis Odd Fellow Fraternal Order was organized in 1843. Elvis Presley belonged to an Odd Fellows group while attending L.C. Humes High School. The Odd Fellows had meeting rooms on the third and fourth floors of the Columbia Mutual Tower building on North West corner Main Street and Court Avenue. They had a pool table and Elvis Presley, Buzzy Forbess, and Paul Dougher spent a lot of time up there shooting pool.

"We were conforming to the dances of the time", Buzzy Forbess said. "The bop was big, and slow dances. Elvis, of course, had his own movements. At parties he was always playing and singing, so we learned to dance before he did".

Although Elvis Presley never joined the Odd Fellows, he often accompanied his friends when they hung out at the Odd Fellows Hall, shooting pool and occasionally playing ping-pong. The Odd Fellows sponsored various charities, and Elvis Presley sometimes went with them on these charity outings. Elvis played for patients at Kennedy Veterans Hospital located on 1030 Jefferson Avenue, and the Home for Incurables during trips with the Odd Fellows. The Odd Fellows no longer maintain a club room at this building, now called The Lincoln American Tower.

KENNEDY VETERANS HOSPITAL - Today named as Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Located on 1030 Jefferson Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee. Total staff of 1,874 and a total of 349 licensed beds. The V.A. Medical Center provides medical care for veterans living in western Tennessee, northern Mississippi, and eastern Arkansas, and serves this region as a referral center for spinal-cord injure and prosthetic treatment. Other medical specialties include a hospital-based home-care unit, a rehabilitation center, and a training center for health professionals in geriatrics. The hospital offers the only comprehensive geriatrics evaluation unit in Memphis. The V.A. Medical Center was a winner of a Greater Memphis Award for Quality in 1997.


Libya is granted its independence, followed by twenty other new African nations over the next ten years - a spur to black self determination in the United States.


Dot Records founded in 1951, Randy Wood had run the operation out of his home. A smiling, auburn-haired, easygoing young man, Randy Wood was an excellent businessman with a clear grasp of the record industry. Like many small record label magnates, he realized that black music was crossing over into the mainstream pop record buying market. In conversations with his artists, Randy Wood contended that white musicians could better sell black music. In January and February 1969, Randy Wood played piano on Elvis' Memphis sessions at American Sound Studios on Danny Thomas Boulevard.


In Jackson, Mississippi, Lillian McMurray and Johnny Vincent's Trumpet label was also recording many of the same artists that Sam Phillips employed, Lillian McMurray had supervised Sonny Boy Williamson (Alex Miller), initial recordings, launching her Trumpet label from a furniture store and record shop in Jackson. Not only was the music similar to that recorded by Sam Phillips, but the Trumpet label had great success in Southern markets. As he scouted for new artists, Sam Phillips visited McMurray and they talked at length about his legal and records problems. She told Sam Phillips that her own troubles came from a lack of money and the inability to judge all types of music. It was McMurray who ultimately convinced Sam Phillips to bring a partner into his record business, advice that sent Phillips to Nashville to find one.


Elvis Presley took and passed the written and road tests for a Tennessee driver's license on his uncle Travis' 1940 Buick. Elvis Presley loved to sit for hours parked at a local hamburger stand in the ostentatious fifty-dollar green 1941 Lincoln. "My daddy was something wonderful to me", Elvis says four years later of his father's purchase. With his collar up and his shoulder jammed against the car door, Elvis Presley was the epitome of the angry young rebel, a pose not uncommon to many youths in the 1950s. "I helped Elvis Presley push that green car around Memphis", Ronald Smith remarked. "Elvis loved that car". A well-known Sun Records session musician", Marcus Van Story, also remembered "Elvis sitting in the front seat looking unhappy. That dammed car never ran right, but he pushed it all over Memphis".


The lure of black music became increasingly important in Elvis Presley's life, and he wandering around the section at Beale Street looking at the sights and listening to the music. Whenever possible, he listened to Memphis' radio station, WDIA at 2074 Union Avenue in Memphis. One of Elvis Presley's early musical favourites was B.B. King, who had started out on WDIA radio singing commercials for Pepicon, a health tonic. It was during the 1951 Christmas season that Elvis Presley first heard King's records "Three O'Clock Blues". As a result, B.B. King became the "Pepticon Boy". The word spread to Humes High and South Side High Schools about a cat playing guitar down on Beale Street. Ronald Smith was one of the first to recognize the power of B.B. King's guitar work, and he alerted Elvis Presley to the new sound. "Elvis loved B.B. King", Smith remarked, "he couldn't get enough of his blues vocals". B.B. King took over a prestigious radio show, the "Sepia Swing Club" and played records by local musicians as well as national acts. King's show was rivalled by the musical sophistication of Nat D. Williams, "Tan Town Jamboree". The latter program attracted as large a white audience as a black one. The music played during the "Tan Town Jamboree" helped Elvis Presley to select records to buy. Soon, he was acquainted with the music of Fats Waller, Ivory Joe Hunter, Roy Brown, Louis Jordan, and T-Bone Walker.

UNKNOWN DATE 1949-1951

Elvis Presley often slipped quietly into the black ghetto to listen to music. He was intrigued by the language and mannerisms of the black Memphis subculture and, as there were no blacks at Humes High, Elvis Presley made friends with them during pickup football games. In a time of personal and musical growth for Elvis Presley, his experiences with blacks were educational ones. This time, Elvis Presley met blues singer Furry Lewis in the Beale Street area. "My older brother went to school with him", recalled singer Barbara Pittman, "and he and some of the other boys used to hide behind buildings and throw things at him, rotten fruit and stuff, because he was different".

It was not long before many country bluesmen migrated from western Tennessee, north-central Mississippi, and the Delta in search of new performing venues in Memphis. Although segregation was still prevalent, when the sun went down, white and black musicians played side by side in the small clubs. Memphis' famed entertainment district, Beale Street, featured fledgling blues artists like B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Walter Horton, Joe Hill Louis, Little Milton, Lowell Fulson, Rosco Gordon, Johnny London, Handy Jackson, Willie Nix, Rufus Thomas, D.A. Hunt, Big Memphis Marainey, Jimmy DeBerry, Little Junior's Blue Flames, Bukka White, and Furry Lewis.

Before too long, these artists made records that found their way into Elvis Presley's life. It was therefore no accident that performers like Elvis Presley copied the frenetic vocal style of local black blues artists, characterized by rough vocals with an energetic personal flair. There were other influences from black musicians. The guitar and piano accompaniments of many black blues acts could provide the rhythm and power of what seemed like a whole orchestra. Early commercial recordings of Memphis blues artists of the time often feature two-guitar teams. Yet, these were just two-piece backup bands, usually augmented by the singer's guitar. It was just this blend of blues, hillbilly, and rockabilly music that later made Elvis Presley so popular, and it was precisely this type of music that dominated the city when the Presley's arrived.

MARCH 1951

"Memphis Bounce" (Gilt-Edge 5026) by Slim Rhodes is released and reviewed in Billboard. It is the second of four discs to be culled from the two Sam Phillips' sessions.

As the bands and singers on Beale Street began making records, it was natural for everyone to get the idea that they ought to record their own music. The growth of small local record labels provided the opportunity for many of the performers. Memphis musicians all wanted the same thing - a hit record. When there was a success, as occurred in 1951 when Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm hit the charts with Jackie Brenston singing lead on "Rocket 88", everyone's enthusiasm was renewed. This song, with the musical revolution on Beale Street as a backdrop, helped bring rock and roll to life. Memphis was not only the cradle of this new black music, it was the central focus of an emerging white style.


Elvis Presley attended Humes High School Wide Carnival to raise funds and each home room was responsible for putting on its own carnival. It would cost five cents to get into each home room. "We had concession stands in the school cafeteria and Coach Boyce and I, along with Stan Cooper, would operate them", recalled Coach Malcolm Phillips. "The cafeteria was filled with people. It was located just below the school auditorium. About 9 p.m., everybody seemed to fade out of the cafeteria, headed for the variety show upstairs. It wasn't long before we heard sounds like "be bop a lula" coming from upstairs. I looked at Rube Boyce and asked; 'What's that?'. 'I don't know', he said. 'You count the money', I told Coach Boyce. 'I'm going up there to see who's making all that noise'.

I climbed up the fire escape and entered the auditorium at the end of the stage. There was Red West playing trumpet, Elvis playing guitar, and maybe two or three others in their band. Elvis was a sight, believe me. His knees were a-knockin', he was singing and wiggling and wobbling all over the place. I went back to the cafeteria and told Rube Boyce, "coach, that's Elvis and a couple of others up there singing'. And he said, 'They will never amount to anything'. But the people were packed in that auditorium. They were sitting in the windows even, and when Elvis got through singing, they were yelling 'Encore, encore!'. And he just kept singing. He must have sung every song he knew that night".


Elvis Presley walked over to the 1132 Kansas Avenue to take a look at the building. He then went home and called Whitehall 8-1652, and asked if they were hiring. A day later, on June 3, 1951, Elvis Presley filled out an employment application and was hired to work from 7:00 a.m. to 3:20 p.m at Precision Tool Corporation, located at 1132 Kansas Avenue, across McLemore Avenue.

The Precision Tool Company manufactured ordnance shells for the U.S. Army. Working on the assembly line was exacting work, and every shell was checked by government inspectors. Elvis Presley earned $27 a week. The employment application was a simple one; sixteen-year-old Elvis Presley put down that he was eighteen. When one of his fellow workers mentioned that Elvis Presley was going to be a junior at Humes High, Elvis Presley promptly fired.

He was told to turn in his bag, number 78; a prized possession, he instead told Precision Tool that he had lost it. Elvis Presley gave the badge to Ronald Smith. Although Precision Tool were impressed with Elvis' work, the company demanded that its employees be eighteen years old.

It was also a dangerous job. One woman was hurt in 1959 when a bomb simulator she was working on exploded. At the end of that same year, the entire building was lost when another bomb exploded and set off the ammunition in a chain reaction. The factory was rebuilt, along with its sister company, Dixie Chemical, but in 1963 another blast injured fifteen workers. Six years later, Gene's Smith brother, Robert, was killed when he slipped and fell into a vat of boiling chemicals. Precision Toll was housed in the building now occupied by Vinkers Distribution and Transfer Company at the northeast corner of Kansas Street and McLemore Avenue.

Elvis Presley listening to Daddy-O-Dewey on 56 WHBQ radio station, he have heard Rosco Gordon's "Booted", Muddy Waters "She Moves Me", "Lonesome Christmas" by Lowell Fulson, and Elmore James' "Dust My Broom". After joining the ROTC unit at Humes High School. "We were in the same ROTC unit", said George Klein. "I didn't like ROTC, but Elvis did. He took two years. I just took one year. I think that was one of the things that helped him when he went into the real army. He knew about marching and he could take that riffle apart. They teach you that in ROTC in high school. They teach you some of the really basic stuff - how to wear the uniform, how to polish the brass, how to tie the tie - little things you should know if you ever do go in the army...", announced George Klein. "Elvis had two years of ROTC. He didn't clown around about it because he was serious about it. He liked that uniform and being a part of a group and stuff like that. He also knew how to march. There is a technique of how to march and if you don't know, you can really look silly. He knew how to do some of the basic army things and I think that really helped him when he got into real army. People probably said well here comes a rock and roll singer who doesn't know how to do anything and he probably really surprised a lot of people", said Klein.

ROTC - In addition to the land-grant institutions, some of the older state universities and schools began to offer military instruction after the Reserve Officers Training Corps Acts, formed on October 21, 1916 and 1920 extended ROTC to other than military institutes and land-grant colleges. ROTC programs continued to be maintained on southern civilian college campuses as well. In the 1980s support for military education has increased nationwide, but the South remains the region most committed to it. Elvis Presley was a member of ROTC (two-year course) while a sophomore at Humes High School. In later years Elvis Presley bought new uniforms for the school's ROTC drill team.

JUNE 18, 1951 MONDAY

Sam Phillips involvement with B.B. King ended after a session on this date. After that point Saul Bihari from RPM/Modern Records came to Memphis and recorded King on a portable Magnecord at the YMCA or Tuff Green's house.


The first commercial passenger plane, a Southern Airways flight, lands in Tupelo.

MID 1951

Elvis Presley saw the Richard Thorpe movie "The Great Caruso" starring Mario Lanza at Loew State Theater in Memphis, a half-dozen times.


Sam Phillips see his first country music recordings issued on Chess. Harmonica Frank's "Swamp Root"/"Goin' Away Walkin'" (Chess 1475 A) is announced in Billboard on August 4. Only two weeks later, Billboard carries the announcement of "Swamp Root"/"Step It Up And Go" (also Chess 1475 A). The switch was perhaps made because Big Jeff and the Radio Playboys had successfully released "Step It Up And Go" on the Dot label and Chess hoped to sell their version in competition. Alternatively, the very bluesy "Goin' Away Walkin'" may not have been well received by country disc jockey’s.

Pee Wee Brad Suggs, guitarist with the Slim Rhodes Band but currently in the Army, records for 4-Star while on furlough from Ford Ord. team.


One of the earliest gospel concerts that Elvis Presley attended was held in August 1951. Just before starting his junior year at Humes High, Elvis Presley went to an all-night gospel concert at Ellis Auditorium, located at 225 North Main Street in Memphis.

He was mesmerized by the style that gospel singers employed to reach their audience; the singers used a personal plea, and he loved its impact. That night, Elvis Presley saw here the Blackwood Brother for the first time perform, and for the next three years he listened to records by the Blackwood's and their younger counterparts, the Songfellows. The Blackwoods were also featured in a weekly radio show broadcast from the Peabody Hotel on Union Avenue. It was J.D. Sumner who first noticed Elvis Presley hanging around Ellis Auditorium in 1951- 1952, and he spent a great deal of time answering young Elvis' questions about gospel music. Elvis Presley here first learned to play piano on the Kanabe piano, he later bought the center a new piano and had this instrument moved to Graceland.

The stars of these events included the Blackwoods, the Harmoneers (from Knoxville), and the Crusaders (from Birmingham) Bobby Strickland, the lead singer with the Crusaders (formerly of the Statesmen), especially impressed Elvis Presley. Other members of the quartet recall young Elvis Presley bringing his guitar backstage and asking Bobby to listen to him sing and play. (Tragically, Strickland was killed in a car accident in September 1953).

"I first met Elvis when he was a kid in Memphis living in the projects", recall J.D. Sumner. "In fact, I used to sneak him in the back of Ellis Auditorium so he could see our show. Elvis really dug bass singers. His favourites were Big Chief Jim Werherington of the Statesmen and me. I think if he had had a choice, he would have been a base singer".

ELLIS AUDITORIUM / COOK CONVENTION CENTER - All-night gospel sings were held at Ellis Auditorium, located at 225 North Main Street at Exchange Street, only a few blocks from Lauderdale Courts. Elvis Presley attended these events as often as he could to raise his voice with the others to praise the Lord. Here Elvis Presley learned to play the piano between sets and backstage. The gospel singers who performed at these events dressed the part, with flamboyant costumes designed to inspire weary worshipers. Elvis Presley took note of their style, imitating it as soon and as much as he could afford to.

In June 3, 1953, Elvis Presley attended his high school graduation ceremony here, and becoming the first in his family to complete high school. Ellis had two golden eras. It was used by Victor Records and other "field" recording units in the 1920s and 1930s to record such luminaries as Memphis Minnie, Tommy Johnson, Furry Lewis, Sleepy John Estes, and Frank Stokes. During the 1940s and 1950s, WDIA radio packed the auditorium for their annual Goodwill Revues.

On May 15, 1956, Elvis Presley performed on the stage during the Memphis Cotton Carnival. Elvis shared top billing with Hank Snow, but the crowd obviously came to see Elvis Presley. In an unprecedented move, both sides of the auditorium were opened, forcing Elvis Presley to play to audience at both his front and back. Uncomfortable with this arrangement, Elvis spent most of his time standing sideway or turning to face both audiences.

On December 22, 1956, Elvis Presley attended the "WDIA Goodwill Review" at Ellis Auditorium. WDIA, a Memphis rhythm and blues radio station, advertised itself as "America's Only 50,000-Watt Negro Radio Station". A few earliers WDIA's program director, David James, told disc jockey not to play Elvis' music, since WDIA was a black station. In a bold move against both the station's wishes and society's standard, Rufus Thomas played Elvis' music. Thomas liked Elvis' sound regardless of his racial background. Artists performing at The Goodwill Review included Little Junior Parker, Earl Malone, B.B. King, and Bobby Bland. Elvis Presley did not perform, but he was welcomed to the stage for a walk-on appearance, in addition to appearing in publicity photos. The audience, consisting primarily of black people, applauded Elvis Presley, the young girls screaming wildly.

On February 25, 1961, marked Elvis Presley's return to this stage, and his first appearance in Memphis after returning from the army. The occasion was a benefit for local charities. The two shows raised $51,607, which was donated to thirty-seven Memphis organizations and the Elvis Presley Youth Center in Tupelo. Throughout the 1960s, the Blackwood Brothers sponsored a gospel convention in the city, the highlight of which was the presentation of the prestigious Dove Award to a gospel quartet. Elvis Presley quietly attended these events; his fame so distracted the crowd that he would silently enter after the ceremonies began and leave before they ended.

In 1971, Elvis Presley was presented his dearest honour at the auditorium when he was awarded a trophy for being named one of the "Ten Outstanding Young Men of America" by the Jaycees. Elvis Presley's connection to Ellis Auditorium was renewed because the Elvis Reunion Concert was held there for years. The concert, which was a tribute to Elvis' love of sacred music, was held annually during Elvis Week in August every year. Many of the performers Elvis worked with sang a variety of his hits and favorite gospel songs at the show. The headliner for the shows was J.D. Sumner, who was once a member of the Blackwood Brothers and later sang as a background vocalist with Elvis Presley as a member of the Stamps Quartet.

The original brick building is still impressive in size. A modern structure has been added at the entry way, providing a shelter for patrons. In 1997 the city of Memphis plans to demolish Ellis Auditorium and replace it with a more ultra-modern state-of-the-art performer arts center. Ellis Auditorium, part of the Cook Convention Center, was at the southwest corner of Exchange Avenue and North Main Street. See it while you can, because it is slated for demolition, making way for a new performing-arts center.

STATESMEN QUARTET - Gospel group founded in 1948 by Hovie Lister, with Jake Hess as the lead singer. The Statesmen, who recorded for RCA Victor Records, were made up of Hovie Lister (piano); Tommy Thompson (bass), Ed Hill (baritone); R.D. Rozell (tenor); and Budd Bunton (lead). At Elvis Presleys funeral in 1977 the Statesmen sang "Sweet Spirit" and "Known Only To Him". Hovie Lister played piano for Kathy Westmoreland when she sang "Heavenly Father".

ALL-DAY / ALL-NIGHT SINGINGS - All-day singing has long been one of the most cherished social institutions of the rural South. The terms has been applied to a wide rage of musical affairs and even has its counterpart in the all-night singings of modern gospel quartet music, but it is most closely associated with the shape-note singing convention.

Singing conventions are events that feature the performance of shape-note music, of both the four-shape and seven-shape varieties. The four-shape conventions have always been the more conservative in that they adhere to the use of one songbook, usually the venerable Sacred Harp, first published by Benjamin F. White in 1844, and they tend to resist newer songs and innovative styles of performing them (they instead preserve the Fasola style of singing). In short, the four-shape people try to remain faithful to the music and, in some respects, the way of life of their ancestors. The seven-shape conventions, which are by far the most numerous of these events, were originally marked by their acceptance of the do-ro-mi system of singing, and they have generally been receptive to innovations in songs and singing style. The singers at such conventions sing not from one book but from a wide variety of paperback shape-note hymnals generally published twice a year by such companies as Vaughan, Winsett, and Stamps-Baxter. The song repertoire therefore includes both the older, familiar religious material and the newest songs "hot off the press". Although everyone in attendance is encouraged to sing, performances are also made by soloists, duets and trios, and often by visiting professional quartets. People clearly attend these conventions not merely to sing but also to be entertained.

Whatever the style of singing, the singing conventions meet regularly throughout the rural and small-town South, often on a monthly basis in the case of the seven-shape singers, but much more infrequently in the case of the Fasola people. Singers gather at a church or at the county courthouse, renew old acquaintances, sing for several hours under the guidance of experienced song leaders, and then sit down at long tables for a sumptuous feast of fried chicken, ham, potato salad, assorted pastries, and other delectables brought by the guests and participants. The practice of combining food and religious music long ago gave rise to the term "all-day singing with dinner on the grounds", which describes one of the most common events in the rural South.

J.D. SUMNER - (1924-1998) Bass singer, born John Daniel Sumner on November 19, 1924, in Lakeland, Florida, as son of John and Leila Sumner. Begin working as a truckdriver, Sumner became in later years, a great gospel singer, started in the Sunny South Quartet from 1945 through 1949. From 1948 through 1954, Sumner was a member of the Sunshine Boys Quartet, and in 1954 through 1965, he was a member of the famous Blackwood Brothers Quartet.

Nicknamed as "Jim Dandy", who had been a friend of Elvis Presley since Elvis was sixteen years old. Sumner would often let Elvis Presley in through the back door so that he could attend the gospel group concerts in Memphis in the early 1950s. Sumner has sung with the Sunshine Boys and, from 1954 to 1965, with the Blackwood Brothers. His vocal group, the Stamps, started in 1965, backed Elvis Presley in many recording sessions and concerts from 1972 to 1977. Elvis gave Sumner a new white Lincoln automobile in October 1976, a $4,000 silver watch, and a $40,000 diamond ring. Deep voice, the six-foot-five-inch-tall entertainer often sang along with Elvis Presley on "Why Me Lord" and "Help Me" in concert. In 1977 J.D. Sumner recorded the tribute record (Elvis Has Left The Building" (OQA 461), and with the Stamps recorded two tribute albums, "Elvis' Favorite Gospel Songs" (OQA 362) in 1977 and "Memories Of Our Friend" (Blue Mark 373) in 1978.

In 1971 J.D. Sumner wrote his autobiography, Gospel Music In My Life. Three days for his birthday, on November 16, 1998, John Daniel Sumner died at a stroke while he was asleep in a small hotel in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, of the age of 73. After Elvis death, J.D. Sumner perform on many appearances for the Elvis Presley Estate each year, for the Elvis Presley Tribute Week in Memphis, Tennessee.

On his funeral on November 19, 1998, his family and his musical friends included, James Burton, Glen Hardin, Charlie Hodge, Joe Guercio, Donnie Sumner, James Blackwood, Jake Hess, Hovie Lister, Ed Enoch, and Tony Brown, attended the funeral.


Elvis Presley tries out for the football team the Tigers, but is cut by the coach when he won't trim his duck-tail and sideburns. When Elvis went to sign up during the week of school, the coach was standing nearby and called Elvis Presley over. After saying hello and finding out Elvis' name, the coach gave him a long look. "If you want to even try out for the team, son, that hair's gotta go". "How come?", Elvis voice was unsteady. "Its a school rule. Athletes have to keep their hair short. Promotes cleanliness. "But my hair is clean". "Rules are rules. If you don't get it cut, you won't be able to try out. I'm sorry". Several other boys heard this exchange, and when Elvis turned around, he could see the smirks on their faces. "One of 'em offered to cut my hair for me if I wanna play so bad",Elvis told later. With football out of the question, Elvis switched his attention to other activities. Elvis Presley to hang around local blues joints on Beale Street in Memphis.


Elvis Presley enters his junior year at Humes High School. He receives C's and is reported tardy three times. During this year at school, friends and teachers notice a change in Elvis, as he begins to gain self confidence, attempts to grow sideburns, and grooms his hair meticulously (some would say obsessively) with Rose Oil hair tonic and Vaseline. His clothes, too, become more flamboyant, and without calling attention to himself in any other way, he becomes a kind of visual focal point. His attempt to join the football team practices at Humes High School, would seem to have been thwarted by his appearance, his size, and his mother's opposition.


Gladys Presley Begins work as a nurse's aide at Saint Joseph's Hospital, located at 264 Jackson Street near 1-40, at a salary of $4 a day, six days a week. She has worked at Britlings Cafeteria downtown in the past, but this is the best job she has ever had, and she is very proud of it. Saint Joseph was just a couple of blocks from the Lauderdale Courts.

SAINT JOSEPH'S HOSPITAL - Located at 264 Jackson Street 1-40, Memphis, Tennessee. (Now vacant on 220 Overton Avenue. Phone 901-577-2700. Today, a total staff of 800, and a total of 410 licensed beds. Saint Joseph Hospital is a full-service hospital, specializing in geriatrics, rehabilitation, mental health, and occupational health, and offers a state-of-the-art cardiology services unit.

Saint Joseph, which is owned by Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation, also provides a 24-hour health and information hotline staffed by registered nurses; the number is 901-577-3000. The hospital's geriatric program offers a transportation service for needy elderly and disabled patients to and from the hospital for appointments, and it recently opened its Geriatric Specialty Clinic, where seniors can receive various health screenings and nutritional counselling. In addition the hospital has opened a new primary-care center for seniors called Med-Wise, located at Poplar and Evergreen Avenues.

Gladys Presley worked at Saint Joseph's from 1951 to 1952 as a nurse's aide. Her earnings helped the family financially, and the job offered Gladys' a distinct sense of accomplishment as Gladys was an excellent aide. Co-workers encouraged Gladys to pursue a nursing career, but she chose not do.

Gladys Presley always tried to shelter Elvis Presley, so it distressed her when he began working at MARL Metal Company in 1952, while he was still attending high school. She thought his school work was more important. "It got so hard on him, he was so beat all the time, we made him quit and I went to work at St. Joseph's Hospital", she told an interviewer four years later.

Neither job suited her as well as her position at Saint Joseph's Hospital, where she found her niche. She was a natural caregiver, and her patients adored her gentle manner. However, the job was too tenuous for Gladys, and she could only handle the work for a couple of years. Her health was never robust, and the long hours on her feet took their toll.

Mrs. Bramlett, who lived on Alabama Street and whose sons, John and Charlie, played football with Elvis Presley, remembers that Elvis would meet his mother at the hospital at the end of her shift and drive her home. One day as they were leaving the hospital, Gladys told Elvis that she had seen a patient arrive in a pink Cadillac, and it was the most beautiful car she had ever seen. Elvis Presley never forgot that conversation, nor the way her eyes lit up when she talked about that car.

The old portion of Saint Joseph's Hospital stands, albeit dwarfed by a modern hospital structure. Givenio's Saint Joseph's proximity to Lauderdale Courts, one can easily imagine Gladys walking to work via Third Street. At the hospital, in addition to her regular work, Gladys helped patients and their families get through rough times. A walk through the old section of Saint Joseph's inspires a wonderful sense of the goodness in humanity to which Gladys contributed throughout her lifetime. Saint Joseph's Hospital is at the end of the street. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is located behind and to the right of Saint Joseph's. 

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